Friday, June 17, 2016

Quote Of The Day: The Racism Of Low Expectations


Today's quote comes from Maajid Nawaz, the coiner of the term "regressive left," from his BigThink talk:

… It’s what I call the racism of low expectations: to lower those standards when looking at a brown person if a brown person happens to express a level of misogyny, chauvinism, bigotry, or anti-Semitism, and yet hold other white people to universal liberal standards. The real victim of that double standard are the minority communities themselves because by doing so we limit their horizons; we limit their own ceiling and expectations as to what they aspire to be; we’re judging them as somehow that their culture is inherently less civilized; and, of course, we are tolerating bigotry within communities, and the first victims of that bigotry happen to be those who are weakest from among those communities.

Happy Friday!


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Prerequisite List For Having A Conversation With Regressive Leftists


Before you have a conversation with regressive leftists where you'll be critical about Islam and terrorism, in order to preempt the usual responses you'll typically get, remember to mention the things on this checklist:

  • Yes, I'm fully aware that not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslims
  • Yes, I'm fully aware that the vast majority of Muslims are not violent
  • Yes, I'm fully aware that Christians have committed violence in the name of their religion
  • Yes, I'm fully aware that the Bible has many violent and sexist verses in it
  • Yes, I'm fully aware that the US government has done many terrible things in its foreign policy
  • No, I'm not saying that Islam is the root of all evil or that religion is the cause of every problem in the world
  • No, I'm not suggesting that we kill all Muslims or attack innocent civilians
  • No, I'm not suggesting we discriminate against all people from the Middle East or South Asia 
  • And no, I'm not suggesting there is something inherently violent about Muslims

With that out of the way you can proceed onto your dialogue with the regressive leftist and you will have hopefully preempted many of their impulsive accusations that hinder real dialogue. This list may grow as I think of new ones. If you're interested, you can check out Sam Harris' version of this here.

Monday, June 13, 2016

PEW: 11 Percent of Americans Either Don't Believe In God Or Don't Know


According to last year's religious PEW survey, "Nearly one-in-ten U.S. adults overall (9%) now say they do not believe in God, up from 5% in 2007." You must keep this in mind when reading their other results that showed only 3.1% of Americans are "atheists" according to their 2014 Religious Landscape survey. Three times less people identify as "atheist" than disbelieve in god or a universal spirit and that's one reason why we need to normalize the term "atheist." That was exactly what American Atheist president David Silverman's speech at the Reason Rally last week was all about. If you don't believe in a god or universal spirit, you are an atheist and you should be confident in identifying yourself as an atheist. An atheist is not someone who's certain there is no god, just as a theist is not someone who's certain there is a god. At a bare minimum, an atheist is someone who simply has no positive believe in a god (or a universal spirit) and can still be open to the possibility that there could be a god. That's it.


Declining Share of Americans Express Absolutely Certain Belief in God

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Atheist Rapper Greydon Square


At the Reason Rally a week ago I met atheist rapper Greydon Square. He focuses on atheist and science related topics and there aren't many rappers who do this, at least not many talented rappers, as he is. Since almost all mainstream rappers are theists of some sort, we are in desperate need of atheist rappers because there's a treasure trove of untapped subject matter there. Hip Hop is also a great medium for getting the atheist message out. Imagine an atheist debate that is entirely done in the form of a rap battle. I'm sure its been done, but probably not how I envision it. The ideal atheist vs theist rap battle would go like this. The theist would open with his argument in rhyme form, then he'd send the transcript to the atheist, who'd craft his response and send the transcript to the theist, who'd then respond and do the same. That way they'd each have time to directly respond to the claims the other made. It wouldn't be able to be live though, but it could be prerecorded and put together. This definitely needs to be done.

Anyway, check out some of his work, promote his music, buy his albums, and if he's performing in a town near you, go see him live.







This Is What Happens When You Take Religion Literally


In light of the recent mass shooting in Orlando I'm seeing the regressive leftists all over twitter saying that this shooting had nothing to do with the terrorist's Islamic faith. But of course that's bullshit. Both the Qu'ran and the Hadith speak very negatively about homosexuality, and in some cases recommend death. Religion is a factor in the motivation of behavior, both good and bad, and we have to acknowledge that and stop denying that religions like Islam do any harm (I'm talking to you liberals). We must be vigilant in refuting regressive ideologies everywhere, regardless of whether they're secular or religious.

Here is a wonderful example of a fundamentalist Christian who takes the Bible literally where you can see the poisonous effects it has on his brain. I present to you raging homophobe pastor Steven Anderson.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How To Stop Trump — My Theory


On Real Time with Bill Maher Bill is asking every guest how to stop Donald Trump from becoming president in the fall. Here's how I think Trump can be stopped.

As a thin-skinned narcissist, Trump cannot let any insults or criticism of himself slide. He has to respond to every negative comment and tweet at him. And when he responds, he can get really, really ugly, and that ugliness can turn off many people who aren't already supportive of him. So the way to destroy Trump is to have many high profile celebrities and politicians attack him relentlessly on TV and on social media in a tsunami of criticism. They should attack him exactly where it hurts him most — his business record, his appearance, the fraud he's perpetrated, his intellectual shortcomings on the issues, his mental stability in general. Trump will be spending all his time responding back and when he does the criticisms should come on even stronger so that he spirals out of control and eventually goes way over the line so that he looks so unpresidential, and like such a horrible, ugly, mentally unstable human being, that it will convince enough people not to vote for him, and that will cause him to lose the election. At least in theory.

That's how you take down Trump. Accusing him of being a racist is not going to hit him hard. Ruining his image as a successful business man, showing how much of a liar he is, and making him look mentally unstable will — for at least some of the people not already devout supporters. All you need to convince is a few million people and that's enough for him to lose the election in November.

So what do you think? Will it work?



Yesterday I accidentally created a post on a tweet I thought was really Donald Trump but instead it was a parody account. I didn't fully check out the source. Once I found that out I deleted the post, but here's the original tweet for your information.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Reason Rally 2016 Recap


I am back in New York after having attended the 2016 Reason Rally. On my ride home we actually got lost and I didn't make it back to my apartment until 2 AM, with just 7 hours to go until I had to go back to work. Luckily my job allows me to come late. Whew! Anyhow, I wanted to share my thoughts on my experiences.

First off, this was the first atheist convention that I had ever gone to. I honestly didn't know what to expect. For the most part, the speakers were not the reason I went. I've seen and spoke with Lawrence Krauss before. I've seen many big name atheists, including Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, as well as many popular atheist YouTubers. I went mainly to visually represent myself as an open atheist who supports secular values and to collaborate with like minded individuals. And get drunk and high of course. Atheist events are great places for meeting new people to collaborate with.

Despite the weather being good, turn out seems to have been lower than expected. It was being reported that 30,000 people were going to attend but in my estimation there were less than 7,000 people. There are lots of theories why this is the case.

  • The atheist community has been fractured by divisions among liberals regarding Islam and feminism, and the organizers of the event generally take a side of the so-called "regressives."
  • The line up was not as exciting, with actors like Johnny Depp and Margaret Cho not attending for various reasons, and Richard Dawkins unable to attend due to his recent stroke. Johnny's appearance alone could have possibly drawn several thousand people.
  • Other big name atheists like Sam Harris didn't attend. People like him have huge followings and could draw thousands of people.
  • Time, cost, and travel expenses could have played a factor. The annual World Science Festival was the same weekend and I really wanted to go but in the end decided to go with the Reason Rally because it's not every year (and I had not attended any major atheist events before).

The location of the event was not ideal. We were by the Lincoln memorial right in front of the reflecting pool and so the crowd was split in half making it difficult to get to either side. In 2012 it was located by the main mall which allowed for better navigation. I suppose my problem with the event would be that it wasn't really that atheist-centric. I would have loved it if Dawkins and Harris were there and more high profile atheists who promote atheism and secular values like Sean Carroll, Phil Zuckerman, Richard Carrier, and Aron Ra. That would be my dream, but the purpose of the rally I suppose was not really to preach atheism, it was to show Washington secular people exist and will be voting. In that sense, it failed to visually represent the growing number of atheist people. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Reason Rally 2016



So tomorrow begins the 2016 Reason Rally event in Washington DC. I will be headed down there tomorrow morning and will be meeting several friends who are active in the New York City atheist community. There are many events lined up in addition to the main rally on Saturday. I'm taking part in the Advocacy Days training session for lobbying senators and congressmen about secularism and to put pressure on them to respect the wall (between church and state). It should be fun, especially since marijuana is legal in the city. The Wu-tang clan are going to perform. Bill Nye will speak and Lawrence Krauss, and they're always interesting. Originally Johnny Depp was going to speak but his recent mother's death and divorce hoopla caused him to decline. Damn. I was looking forward to seeing him and possibly meeting him since I know a guy who knows the organizers.

If you can make it to the event I highly recommend you come. It is very important that atheists, skeptics, and secular people are represented and show America that we're one of the largest growing segments of the population and that we're just not going to tolerate the absurdity of religion into the government process anymore. A rally for reason, it would seem, shouldn't be necessary. It's the 21st century. Heck it's the second half of the second decade of the 21st century. We as a people should be past religious dogma hindering our policies. But in reality it's technically more broad than that. Rational thinking is needed in all areas of human existence, not just politics. We absolutely need rational discourse in every aspect of our lives from politics to policy to economics to our personal lives and views. It's not just religion that is hindering rational thinking. There are multiple kinds of irrational ways to think that involve no appeal to religion or any god. I suppose that's what the Reason Rally is really about - at least I hope. We need to stamp out all ways of irrational thinking, especially among religious, but also among the non-religious.

And speaking of which, I will be posting a blog I wrote last year on how to infer ontology that I never published that will outline my views on exactly how to think rationally about ontological claims. Expect that to be done within the next week or two - depending on how busy I am from the rally.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Quote Of The Day: God Meets Science And Logic





Today's quote of the day is technically by me. Inspired by a previous tweet I made, I've decided to turn it into a meme.  Copy it and spread it to all your social media.

Have a happy Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why So Many People Get The Big Bang Wrong (Including Atheists)



As an atheist I hear it all the time: NO ONE CREATED SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING? This is the name of the first chapter in Christian Apologist Frank Turok's book Stealing God. Other variations of the question go, "How do you get something from nothing?" or "How does nothing create everything?" or still yet, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" The popular view out there especially among theists is that atheists believe "nothing" somehow created everything. If you're an atheist in any kind of situation talking or debating with theists you can be sure some variation of these questions will come up at some point, and you've got to be prepared to give a response. Of course "I don't know" is always a respectable answer, but to me there is a short sound byte answer that can be given and it relies on refuting a common misunderstanding of the big bang that so many of us make, including many atheists.

First, some of these questions assume that the ontological default state should be nothing, and not something, and theists who ask these questions will almost certainly not have shown any justification why that should be so. I don't think one can even come up with an objective prior probability for such an assumption. Second, many of these questions usually rely on a faulty assumption about the big bang. Many people falsely assume the the big bang entails there there was a state of nothingness, and then *poof* you get a big bang. That's not what it says. That's not even what inflationary theory says. They both simply say that there was a first moment when t=0. There wasn't anything prior to that; there was no state of "nothing" from which everything came out of. And since space and time are tied together, as Einstein showed, with no space prior to t=0, there was no time. So you can say that the universe always existed in that at every moment of time the universe exists. In this sense, the universe is omnitemporal. That means there was always something. Somethingness might be the ontological default, and not nothingness.

So no atheist must be committed to the view that "nothing created everything." This is an absurd parody of the atheist position on cosmic origins, and far too many religious apologists and atheists alike believe this. Now of course it is always possible that there was spacetime prior to the big bang. If there's an infinite amount of spacetime prior to our universe's big bang, then most of these questions are mute anyway. And if there is a finite amount of spacetime prior to our universe's big bang, the same principle applies to the absolute origin.



Monday, May 23, 2016

Quote Of The Day: Sean Carroll On How Causality Isn't Fundamental


As shocking as it may seem, causality is not a fundamental concept but a derived one. When we speak of causality in everyday life, we're talking about an emergent phenomena. This is why all the "first cause" arguments for god fail. They make the mistake of taking the everyday experiences and phenomena we observe that don't really exist fundamentally and try to turn them into "metaphysical principles." From Carroll's paper Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists:

From the perspective of modern science, events don’t have purposes or causes; they simply conform to the laws of nature. In particular, there is no need to invoke any mechanism to “sustain” a physical system or to keep it going; it would require an additional layer of complexity for a system to cease following its patterns than for it to simply continue to do so. Believing otherwise is a relic of a certain metaphysical way of thinking; these notions are useful in an informal way for human beings, but are not a part of the rigorous scientific description of the world. Of course scientists do talk about “causality”, but this is a description of the relationship between patterns and boundary conditions; it is a derived concept, not a fundamental one. If we know the state of a system at one time, and the laws governing its dynamics, we can calculate the state of the system at some later time. You might be tempted to say that the particular state at the first time “caused” the state to be what it was at the second time; but it would be just as correct to say that the second state caused the first. According to the materialist worldview, then, structures and patterns are all there are — we don’t need any ancillary notions.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

George Carlin Was Wrong On Voting


I've been running into many people lately who say voting is a meaningless process when I bring up politics. One guy I was talking to recently brought up George Carlin who was very critical on the voting process (among other things). George Carlin said repeatedly in his standup gigs and on TV and other media outlets that voting is pointless because the game is rigged, the country's ruled by a small group of people who have all the real power, and they've set up a system to give you the illusion that you actually have a choice when you go out and vote, but you don't.

Now look. I'm a huge Carlin fan. I love his stand up and his general philosophy. He's genuinely funny as fuck. But he's wrong on voting. First, let me say that I partially agree with him that there are people running the country who don't give a crap about regular working folks like me. This is not to say that there's some secret conspiracy, like the Bilderbergs, or the Illuminati. There is some truth to that but I'm not a conspiracy nut. There are various competing groups in various areas of the world in various sectors who have a disproportionate amount of power. That's always been the case. But aside from this partial truth, to not vote is not going to make the situation any better for thinking and working people who want rational policies. It will make it worse. Here's why.

We have to acknowledge that not all politicians are the same. No one in their right mind would seriously believe that a Ted Cruz presidency would've had the exact same laws and policies passed as a Bernie Sanders presidency. If you believe that you're insane. These two men couldn't be more ideologically different. The same is true of past elections. Do you really think that a John McCain presidency would've had the exact same laws passed that president Obama passed? Do you think universal healthcare, and same sex marriage, and the ending of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would've been passed under president McCain? Do you think McCain would've appointed the same Supreme Court Justices as Obama did? You know the same-sex marriage decision came down to just one vote don't you? A one vote difference would have made the country completely different. Elections matter, and presidents appoint Supreme Court judges and Congress votes them in, and you vote-in the president, the senators, and the congressmen and women.

If you don't think your vote counts, think again. The reason why Bernie Sanders didn't get more votes than Hillary Clinton is because his base is among young people and too many young people have bought this meme that all politicians are the same and the game is all rigged and so your vote doesn't matter, so don't vote. Nothing could be more insane. This guarantees that you will never get your way in the political system. In case you don't know, the people who are not buying this meme are the older religious white conservatives who often vote for religions Christian dominionists who want to turn the US into their Christian fantasy land. The religious right in this country wants to live in a very very different America than secular liberals like me.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

How To Think Rationally About Claims


I've recently encountered many people who are otherwise very intelligent, but who, for one reason or another, came to believe very foolish things, like libertarian free will, or that we have a soul. It's not that they're stupid or anything, it's mostly due to them just lacking information or having the wrong information in the subject matter, and/or are suffering from poor reasoning skills.

Knowing how to think critically is absolutely essential to being a rational person. We hear numerous claims everyday. But how do we make sense of them? How do we evaluate whether there is any truth to them or not? Well, the answer is long, and I'm in no position to give a full assessment of all the relevant factors. But I can outline a few very important things everyone should know when evaluating the validity of a claim.

Let's start with the claim that the soul exists. By 'soul' I don't mean anything in the metaphoric sense. I'm talking about the traditional notion of a soul, the kind that Descartes believed in: the invisible ghost that resides in our bodies, that animates us, and gives our intellect. This is a belief mostly left over from religion, but is still believed by a surprising number of educated people today. One way to evaluate a claim like this is to ask yourself, if it were true, what would have to be the case? In other words, if souls were real, what would have to be the case logically and scientifically? Let's explore this.

If souls were real, it would have to be the case that the immaterial substance that made up the soul—whatever it is—had to be able to overcome the natural forces in and between the atoms that make up your body. That means there would have to be extra forces at work that apply to the atoms in your body that do not apply to the atoms that make up inanimate matter, like rocks. This echos a view once popular among philosophers and biologists until the end of the 19th century known as vitalism. On vitalism there is something fundamentally different about living things and non-living things. Living things have a life energy that non-living things don't. This would have to be the case—at least for humans—if souls exist.

But the relentless progress of science has shown that this is not the case. There are no special forces or energies that exist in living things that non-living things do not have. There is no life energy out there, despite what all the Deepak Chopras of the world insist. Vitalism has been utterly discredited as an accurate description of reality. All the particles that make up you and I and rocks and trees are made up of the same three things — protons, neutrons, and electrons, that's it. And all the forces that govern them are the electromagnetic force, and the strong and the weak nuclear forces. Gravity is the forth force but is really not a force, it's the curvature of spacetime. Those are the fundamental components that make up everything in your everyday experience and there is no room for anything else. This information has just not gotten out there into the popular understanding of science, but in time it will. The bottom line is this — we fully understand the particles and forces that make up you and I and rocks and trees and planets and there is no room for anything else that can have a causal impact on the atoms that make up your body, like a soul. That is one idea that science has falsified, and we know this through the proper way of reasoning about claims by philosophizing on what would have to be the case if the claim were true.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Big Picture Tour



Last week I saw physicist Sean Carroll again for the first stop on his book tour for The Big Picture: On the origins of life meaning and the universe itself at the Bell House in Brooklyn. His latest book is basically a defense of naturalism from a scientist's perspective on how we should see the "big picture" of existence, life, and meaning, in a way firmly grounded by, and compatible with science—but with lots of philosophy thrown in—which is definitely needed in public discourse of this nature. I've been waiting a long time for a book just like this to come out because I think it's very important for the naturalist to be able to have a coherent explanation of reality fully compatible with human experience and with science. I'm also very grateful that Carroll is not allergic to philosophy like Lawrence Krauss is. Philosophy is absolutely essential to having a coherent worldview and I personally am deeply invested in having a worldview as a naturalist from the most fundamental ontology all the way up to the higher level ontologies like sociology and politics. My goal is to eventually work my way to the higher level philosophies over time and I hope this book can significantly help me with rational thinking on how to tie them all in together.

One of the interesting points Carroll argues early on is that notions like "cause and effect" are nowhere to be found in the fundamental laws of physics, they are just a way of describing reality as we see them from our human perspectives. This is very important, because for one thing, if there is no cause and effect as is commonly understood in our experience, all the "first cause" arguments for the existence of god go out the window. I've been coming to the realization that cause and effect aren't really as they seem on my own through my study of Special Relativity. In a block universe, there are simply just worldtubes in spacetime, and one point on the worldtube doesn't really cause a later point on the worldtube. What causality really is would seem to have to be the relationships of intersecting worldtubes as they precede each other or intertwine with another. For example, asking "why do I exist now?" would be explained by the fact that at an earlier event in spacetime my parents had sex. That was the "cause" that resulted in my birth and existence now – but only in the sense that if you trace my worldtube back in spacetime to its origin it’s preceded by my parent’s worldtubes and thus that establishes the "causal" relationship. This is a profound insight that radically changes our notion of causality. The traditional notion we ascribe to our everyday experiences simply doesn't exist.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Special Relativity Lesson 1: Time Dilation Is Symmetric


I generated so many emails in my debate on Special Relativity that I have all this content about it sitting around. I just realized that it's best that I use it as material for short blog posts that can serve as educational lessons for learning some of the basic concepts in SR. It's possible to understand SR from a conceptual framework without knowing any of the math. The math certainly helps fully understand the theory, but I think that for the general public it's at least better to know the basic ontology of what entails from SR by understanding it conceptually rather than not understanding anything at all.

For this first lesson, I will explain how time dilation is symmetric. This lesson expects you to have some basic familiarity and understanding of the concepts in Special Relativity, like an inertial frame, a light clock, a spacetime diagram, and what a worldline is, etc. It is not intended to be a full lesson from which you can learn the theory in its entirely.

In Special Relativity, time dilation is symmetric. For two inertial observers in relative motion their clocks will slow down at a rate equal to each other. Using screenshots I've taken from this video, I will explain how this works.

We first start out with a 3D representation of time in a spacetime diagram showing the position of two light clocks held by two observers moving relative to one another. One is held by Albert Einstein who is standing on a train platform, and the other is held by Hendrik Lorentz who is standing on a train moving relative to Einstein.

Image 1

Image 1 above shows the relationship between the two. The zigzag pattern of the yellow lines are the worldlines of the light in their light clocks. They are the paths of the light through space and time, or spacetime.

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